Exhibition canaries must be on their best behaviour to stand any chance of success on the show bench. Training is easily accomplished, when you know how. Different canary varieties have different needs. Borders must travel across the two perches of their show cage, Yorkshire canaries must stand fearlessly to attention on the top perch, and canaries displayed in box cages need to be steady, to enable the judge to assess them.
Starting young is the key. Over many generations, the ‘exhibition gene’ has been bred into our canaries, so all that is needed is to encourage our birds to display to advantage whilst in their show cages.
I start training my birds when they are about five weeks old. During weaning when the young birds are housed in small groups, I hang a training cage onto the stock cage, and the birds quickly learn to hop in and out. The leaders will entice the more timid birds into the cage, for an initial look around. A sprig of green food between the cage wires works wonders in encouraging birds in. There is no need to handle the training cage at this stage - it is there to familiarise the young birds to the new cage.
After a few days, I transfer the birds into single stock cages. As they enter the training cage, I slowly carry them to their new homes, where they hop in to inspect their fresh food and new surroundings. Each time you enter the birdroom, hang training cages onto each single cage, allowing the occupant to enter and leave at will, as you go about your tasks.
As you go about your tasks, calmly approach the cage, and let the birds see your hands, gently moving them to encourage the bird to attain show position, or move across the perches. Finally, hold the cage at eye level as judges often do, before returning the birds to their stock cage.
Avoid sudden movements. At this early stage, those more flighty specimens may hurl themselves against the cage wires and damage wings or tender young feet.
Repetition is all that is required throughout the summer months. As the moult finishes, taking the birds for short trips inside their respective show cage carrying boxes, lifting them up, placing down again, and perhaps adding a few short car journeys, maybe to a local fanciers room for added interest, is all that is needed to finish their education.
During the early stages of the moult, young birds become too flighty to gain much benefit from training. No matter, they will remember their earlier training, and show themselves off to perfection, as they emerge in their new plumage.
Remember, untrained birds will let you down on the show bench, as judges cannot assess wild stock. Any birds not retained still require training, because new owners must also assess their qualities to see if they are deserving of a new home.
The few minutes extra each day, training and enjoying the company of your new crop of young birds is time well spent, adding to the overall enjoyment of your hobby.